Voice

The 5 Alexa Skill Types Video

The 5 Alexa Skill Types

According to Voicebot, there are over 66.5M users in the US with smart speakers. In this video, we discuss different options and which strategy is right for your business to reach them.

Our Technical Project Manager, Conor, identified the 5 major Alexa Skill types in this video. Check it out below.

We’re happy to match, create, and customize an Alexa Skill for you. For a free demo, contact us for more information.

Cheers!

The Voice Age Realtor

Transforming Real Estate with Technology

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The real estate industry is the largest commodity in the world at an estimation of $217 trillion in valuation. Technology, such as voice products and AI, are growing rapidly and affecting many markets. Because of these new technologies, about 10’s of millions of dollars have been raised to speed up the process of getting feedback from tenants.

Further, realtors are using big data to solve client needs by finding trends and associations.

Current examples include mobile home-search apps based on buyer preferences. Now, AI can personalize customer interactions to aggregate data and figure out the clients’ needs and preferences. Virtual reality could also allow potential buyers to view the house virtually and customize a house virtually.

Well-known real estate companies, such as Zillow, Truilia, and Realtor, have created proprietary formulas to assist customers. For example, Zillow has a tool called Zestimate.This home valuation tool estimates the market value of a home using a computerized proprietary formula.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI will aggregate the data from customer interactions and tailor messaging based on successful interactions with similar past clients. Many now have chatbots on websites, which can be implemented as a voice feature.

Moreover, AI can create CRM systems, manage property management systems by monitoring vital metrics to predict when maintenance errors may occur. In addition, AI monitors geographic areas for property price fluctuations and other trends.

Voice Technology

Now with innovative voice technology, it is time for the real estate industry to start to adopt these new technological advances. Voice products can help realtors in a number of areas - from generating new prospects to setting home showings. Below are just a few features and questions prospects can use when they start their home-buying search.

Types of features for a real estate skill:

  • Search for houses in your area

  • Connect with local real estate agents

  • Hear daily home listings

  • Review weekly real estate market information

  • Track valuation of a home

  • Email results of your searches

Questions to ask:

  • How much is my home worth?

  • How many homes have sold in my ZIP code?

  • Where do I find an agent in my city?

  • Who are my local realtors?

The Future of Voice Technology in Real Estate

Right now, voice assistants are following up through text messages and emails. Soon, they will be able to follow-up with leads over the phone and through smart speakers.

Your prospects will soon be using virtual assistants primarily to find a home or an agent. It is important to make sure you’re business is connected to these voice searches or you’ll miss the opportunity.

Are you ready to bring your agency to the voice age? Close your next deal with the help of a voice product. Contact us now for a free demo!

Checking-In with Voice

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Photo Source:

Geek Wire

Voice in Hospitality

Just this past October, the Marriott Group welcomed its first Alexa in guest rooms in North Carolina. However, this isn’t the first time Alexa has been in hotels. In 2016, Wynn Resorts installed over 5,000 Alexas in their rooms.

In June, Amazon launched Alexa for Hospitality. With the help of Alexa, guests can ask her questions, such as:

  • Alexa, order room service.

  • Alexa, order one more towel.

  • Alexa, turn on the TV.

  • Alexa, book a spa appointment.

  • Alexa, help me check out.

This simple integration of Alexa into existing services and amenities can bring guests’ experiences to a new level. Now, guests will even be able to connect their Amazon account to their hotel room’s Alexa and will disconnect once they check-out.

Now, it’s not just Amazon and Alexa taking over the hospitality voice market. Recently, a provider of digital guestbooks for private accommodations, Hostfully, partnered with Virtual Concierge Service to integrate Hostfully’s guidebooks into voice assistants.

Property managers are also using voice applications. For example, property managers are buying smart kits and installing them into their lighting controls synced to voice. Some property managers have even recorded their own personal recommendations to guests. It’s all about the ease of communication between guests and property managers. These are just some of the many ways voice assistants are innovating the hospitality business.

Voice Special Capabilities in Hospitality

The Alexa for Hospitality system is a tool itself where hotels can update information, enable skills, adjust settings, and even track usage. It will even allow hoteliers to measure guest engagement through analytics and reporting.

There are many other opportunities for hotels to capitalize on Voice products. PhocusWire outlined a few in a recent article:

  • Total revenue per available room

  • Average daily rate

  • Net promoter scores

  • Labor cost as a percentage of sales

One specific example includes a company developing a speaker skill that can integrate a hotel’s

revenue management system which makes for hotels to tap into the data they need, but using simple and recognizable voice commands. Because of voice technology, hoteliers can access their data anywhere.

Innovators in Voice

Right now is the perfect opportunity to jump integrate voice into your hospitality business. We’re here to help enhance your guests’ experiences. Here at Bluefin, we can customize your guest’s experiences by building you a custom voice application. Don’t be the last one to check-in, call us now!

Serving Your Customer Through Voice

Customer Service in the Voice Age Customer engagement, brand loyalty, and customer retention are all rewards for having outstanding customer service. With long waiting times, waiting on hold is a customer’s worst nightmare.

In this age, technology is being used to improve their customer experience. From cutting down wait time to understanding a caller’s intent better, voice is bettering a customer’s journey. Being customer-centric is essential for any company. So how can voice bring your customer service to the top?

Amazon Chat Bots

Last year, Amazon delivered Amazon Chat Bots. Amazon’s Lex allows companies to create intelligent conversational chatbots. These chatbots are able to recognize human speech and can understand the caller’s intent - thus, minimizing the need to speak in specific phrases. Without even talking with an agent, a caller can change their password, request a balance on an account, and even schedule an appointment through these chatbots.

Maximizing Voice in Customer Service

Now, speech recognition software is used in call centers to handle incoming customer calls. Instead of pushing a button to answer a question, the customer interacts with the system by speaking instead. With speech recognition software, companies can route callers to many different services during a call based on answers.

Now with AI technology, companies are using AI voice services through:

  • Automating call types and chats, meaning routing to order status, payment, reservations, and return services easier
  • Gathering data before talking to a live agent
  • Conducting outbound calls and texts to remind or alert customers.

Voice will significantly cut down those pesky wait call lines and improve customer morale. Contact us to learn how you can integrate voice into your customer service.

Sources:

https://aws.amazon.com/chatbots-in-call-centers/

https://searchcrm.techtarget.com/report/Leveraging-speech-recognition-technology-in-call-centers

Photo Source: https://www.getcontactnumber.com/computer-hardware/echo-alexa-customer-service/

Happy Holidays with Voice Products

Happy holidays from our team to yours! With new voice products out just in time for the holiday season 2018, we’re ready to add them to our wish list.

Dominating the Holiday Season

Last year, Alexa Echo Dot outsold all other products on Amazon over the holidays and the Amazon’s Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote was the second highest in sales. In addition, the Echo Dot, Echo Spot, and Echo Buttons all sold out during the 2017 holiday season.

Additionally, Google voice products are in high demand. During the holiday season last year, Business Insider predicted they sold at least 6.8 million Home devices.

Amazon is already gearing up for the holiday season and just announced that they will be offering free shipping to all customers during the holiday season starting this Monday. With Alexa products already on sale, we’re certain voice products are sure to be a hit.

What does that mean for you?

Now is your time capitalize on these popular Voice products! The numbers don’t lie. These popular voice products will be the hot gift of the holiday season. Get your company’s skill on the list. Contact us now and beat the holiday rush!

 

Sources:

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-offering-free-shipping-to-all-customers-for-holiday-2018-11

https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/312184/amazon-echo-dot-tops-all-holiday-sales.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/google-home-features-tips-tricks-2018-2 Photo Source: https://www.adweek.com/digital/amazon-has-great-strategy-lure-consumers-echo-exclusive-holiday-deals-174714/

The 5 Alexa Skill Types

5 Alexa Skill Types

5 Alexa Skill Types

The 5 Alexa Skills Types

Alexa skills are like smartphone apps. Skills are voice-driven Alexa capabilities where you can bring your products and services to life. To date, there are over 50,000 Alexa Skills worldwide!

It’s easy to be overwhelmed and confused by these many skills.  Don’t panic, we identified 5 different types of Alexa skills and categorized them so you can get a sense for how a skill strategy may start to layout.

The Informer

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The Educator

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The Transactor

Alexa Skill Transactor

Alexa Skill Transactor

The Entertainer

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The Controller

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Bringing Your Company to the Voice Age

With over 39 millions Americans using smart speakers according to a new research report, you can bet that these numbers are only rising.  Don’t wait, start developing a skill for your business now! Not sure where to start? We’re here to help! Feel free to contact us for a FREE voice skill consultation. 

Your customers are talking - are you listening?

Sources:

Voicebot.Ai:

Amazon Alexa Now Has 50,000 Skills Worldwide, works with 20,000 Devices, Used by 3,500

Brands

TechCrunch:

39 million Americans now own a smart speaker, report claims

Photo Source:

https://www.amazon.com/alexa-skills/b?ie=UTF8&node=13727921011

Alexa Logo:

Amazon Alexa

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5 Tips for Giving Alexa a New Voice

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                       Do you know someone that would make for a great Alexa Voice? As much as we enjoy a good Joke from Alexa or a quick update on the weather, her voice playback doesn’t always align in providing the unique brand experience you might want to create. Fortunately, the platform with the right voice talent capabilities allows you to substitute Alexa’s voice for something a bit more...

Customizing Alexa’s Voice

Recently, we’ve worked with our great partner at Cecilia.fm to build out a new skill for a client that is uniquely voice-branded. As part of the project, we thought we share a couple of tips for changing Alexa’s voice.

  1. Write out your complete script and build it with Alexa’s voice first

While writing out your script first seems obvious, building it using Alexa’s native voice first is a must. It will save you time in the long run and help you to plan out each transition in the conversation, so you can build out a very complete Voice asset list.

  1. Don’t forget the unexpected while you have your Voice Talent

Outside of your expected dialogues in your conversation map, don’t forget that errors can occur during a conversation if you don’t have the correct Audio files. Consequently, this will make for an awkward experience transitioning from your voice actor to Alexa voice and back. While cutting audio in the studio, make sure you account for the “Oops”, “That wasn’t supposed to happen”, and all those unexpected awkward moments.

  1. Keep your response pieces under 90 seconds

The only way you will be able to change out of Alexa’s voice is to use the SSML <audio> tag. The amount of SSML Audio playback for a given response is a hard limitation of 90 seconds. Likewise, even though you can use multiple <Audio> tags in a single response (up to 5), the sum of all that audio cannot be greater than 90 seconds.

  1. Using Audio over 90 seconds

If your skill requires Audio that is longer than 90 seconds, you need to use the Audio Player inside your code and your user will be exited out of the skill once the audio finishes. Unfortunately, this is a limitation to the Audio Player for now. If you need to use the Audio Player, it may be helpful to let the user know that they are leaving the skill at the end of the Audio file that plays. Also it is a good practice to kindly remind them on how to get back into the skill to encourage repeat visits.

  1. Using SSML in Slot Filling

If your skill needs to use Slots to capture key data from your users, you can use SSML <Audio> in Alexa Speech Prompts for Slot Filling and Slot Confirmation. However, there can be issues with the SSML formatting if you are entering it using the Alexa Skill Kit interface. We recommend you use the JSON Editor to make the changes in the JSON code directly to ensure the SSML tag is formatted properly. This approach also allows you to make sure you are escaping characters properly to prevent any extra spaces in between you Slot variables and the SSML tag.

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Snippet of Code

For example, here’s a snippet of a JSON file where we used SSML to playback a custom Audio file based on a prior input from the user. In the skill, we ask the user for the length of time they would like and store it in the variable {time}. We then use that {time} variable as part of an URL construct to call a custom audio file.  

Creating a Unique Voice Experience

Leveraging a custom voice can create a very unique and engaging experience for your end-users.  The effort to do so requires a bit more planning and some massaging of the code, but it is worth it at the end. The developer forum at Amazon is a great resource to leverage and we’d be happy to help you if needed. Feel free to drop us a line.

Cheers -

Jay

Photo Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-amazon-echo-on-table-977296/

Owner: Fabian Hurnaus

Site: Pexels.com

Edited with Adobe XD

Alexa Skill Arbitration Draws Potential for Business Entry

Gone are the days where users have to dig through the deep depths of the skills marketplace to find the skill that they desire. Amazon recently rolled out a new feature called Skill Arbitration that is going to change the way that skills will be found.

Skills Arbitration:

In the fancy words of Amazon themselves:

"In the coming weeks, we’re rolling out this new capability that allows customers in the U.S. to automatically discover, enable and launch skills using natural phrases and requests."

In layman’s terms, when Alexa doesn’t have the information you ask for, it looks for the right skill to get you the answer. Now it will be possible for smaller niche skills to gain some penetration into the skill market.

Let's say you have a stain on that nice shirt that you were gonna wear to that business meeting, but you don’t know how to get the stain off. Being the tech enthusiast that you are, you decide to ask Alexa. Alexa will gracefully handle your request by suggesting you a skill that can handle the situation of getting a stain off by possibly suggesting the Tide skill as described in the announcement article here.

Why is this important?

With this new functionality, this gives any third-party skill opportunity for exposure all for free! This helps to encourage meaningful interactions between your ideal customer demographic and your third-party skill. No need for paid advertising, your own skills can now market themselves based on your own target demographic. I now envision a frenzy of enterprising scrambling to get their hands on their own skills so that they can get their share in the Skill Arbitration process. Getting a skill in the store today will give any type of business an edge over their competitors. Businesses that leverage voice interfacing will enjoy the fastest growing technology platform to date.

Numbers Don’t Lie:

Graph showing massive growth of smart speaker technology within the past year

 

Analysis of current sales trends hints at forecasted growths that appear to be absolutely astronomical. Due to the extremely high penetration rates of the smart speaker markets, smart speakers are set to become an integral component of the reality we will live in tomorrow. In translation, any type of corporation will hopefully seek Alexa based opportunities to get their share of the emerging technology. Rollouts of the arbitration mixed with a massive consumer demand for smart speakers such as Alexa is a mixture for success when it comes to business.

Forward Thinking:

As of last week, Amazon has also released a new feature for Alexa that allows you to sell products and services as well as subscription services all through Alexa. Monetization is a key component that will enable enterprises to add revenue streams all through voice commands. Have an idea of how you can apply a skill to your own business? Don’t know where to start? Check us out here and feel free to connect with us, we would love to help.

Google Assistant makes a splash at CES 2018

CES just wrapped up in Las Vegas.  The event, which takes place yearly, is where the cutting edge of consumer products are shown off.  This year had a clear theme -  getting everyday consumer products connected and equipped with voice interfaces.  Refrigerators, mirrors, toilets, televisions, cars, you name it, people are putting voice into it.  We aren’t here to tell you that all of those gadgets are necessary, but we can say that the age of voice interface is ramping up.  It is no longer in the early adopter stage as Amazon has now sold more than 10 million Alexa powered Echo products.  The market for voice products is no longer a 1 horse race, as Google has put a dent in what was once an Alexa only market.  In Q4 of 2017 it was reported that 7.6 million Google Home products sold, that is more than the total smart speakers sold in all of 2016.  That is a massive amount of hardware.  Reports indicate that 2018 will be even bigger for the purchase of smart speakers, with an estimated 56 million speakers to ship.  These voice assistants aren’t exclusive to their companies hardware though.  Google, for example, has their voice assistant on phones and a lot of the new connected products that were shown off at CES.  Reports say that Google’s voice assistant is now available on over 400 million devices!   This is an exciting time to be involved in Voice.  It can be a seamless and satisfying way to interact with a computer.  Over the holidays, the team at Bluefin did a fun in-house project, developing a Google Action for our kegerator.  We had previously built a connected keg, powered by the open-source Kegbot Arduino, and Raspberry Pi software.  A flow meter collects data on the kegs use and a web interface lets the user give input details about the keg, such as beer type and size of the keg.   Since Google Assistant isn’t restricted to one device, the information is available on any device with Google Assistant.  In the office, we use our Google Home to ask the kegbot questions, like “When was the last beer poured,” but we can also access it on a phone with Google Assistant enabled. Imagine you are at a liquor store, and can’t remember if the keg is low, you simply ask the voice assistant, “How much beer is left in the keg?” With what we were able to do in a week with our in house project, the possibilities seem endless for how helpful voice integration will be.

Below is a quick demonstration of some of what the voice assisted kegbot can do:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7fsNlsVhOM&t=18s

 

Voice Apps are the New Mobile Apps of the Day

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The Voice Assistant and Voice Interface market for the past few years has experienced an increase in demand for high quality voice apps. Although the market as a whole is in the growth stage, the need for well designed voice apps has arrived.

Voice Assisted Devices

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Smart speakers, and devices with voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant has boomed in the past year. If you look farther down the line, analysts predict that by 2020, up to 75% of all US households will have some sort of smart speaker in the home. There is no doubt that this market, just like the mobile phone market of the late 2000s, will see a massive influx of voice apps to support that consumer demand.

Voice Assisted Applications

The Alexa App Store is glutted with daily briefings and trivia apps. But analyzing the usage of most apps you see that many people will use a skill once and never “touch” it again. The market is longing for valuable voice interactions that give users cause to interact with them on a regular basis.

Benefits of Adding Voice to Your App

Companies have seen three main benefits from implementing voice interactions into their apps. 1) By receiving exactly what consumers are asking, businesses are able to tailor content on other platforms to best fit the information customers are looking for.  2) Some companies have found that voice interfaces can fill needs otherwise unreached by standard interface structures and 3) they have also seen that consumers feel that voice can be much more convenient and immediate than their traditional content acquisition solutions.

For more information on getting a voice app developed and launched along with a full report on the voice assisted market, get in contact with us here.